14 October 2010

The Mystery of the Penwiper

I recently was able to unravel a little mystery in a chain of linked events that I would call serendipitous
ser·en·dip·i·tous[ser-uhn-dip-i-tuhs]lucky in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries
A few years ago I found a pin cushion on Ebay that I wanted to purchase for a friend that collects antique pin cushions. The pin cushion was very primitive and featured a tiny felt mouse with bead eyes sitting on top of pinked edge circular cut wool...just like this

1.com.... very sweet and appealing to someone that treasures handmade "folksy", primitive type items. Unfortunately and quite shockingly, the price climbed to over $250.

Being the crafty person that I am I decided to reproduce the pin cushion using hand dyed wools from my collection.

I made a little pattern and tucked it away in hopes of making one for myself someday.

and then...

Last week I was following a live auction online when I saw something called a penwiper. I took a closer look at the pictures and realized that what I had thought was a pin cushion was actually a penwiper from 1862.A penwiper was used to clean the ink from a dip pen or a fountain pen.

Here are some of the whimsical images of these ancient useful treasures that sold at auction for between $500-900.
Too precious to mess up with indelible ink...don't you think?The pig...not so much.
Cats and kittens, then as now, a favored theme.Peacocks waiting for their writing plumes.
(Courtesy of Nostalgic Impressions)

A favored pet must have been a friendly companion while doing ones school lessons, ....seated in front of her inkwell, dip pen in hand, blotting on her penwiper before practicing her cursive...imagine ink stains on those pretty little white dresses.
No Tide with Stain BustersWalter MacEwen(1860-1943 American)

and then....
While researching this post I actually found, 5 years later, the EXACT same mouse (shown above) that I had bid on, for sale, at VandM.com!

Googling further I found this booklet.
Victorian Pattern eBooks

On page 18 there is a pattern, dated December 1862, for Mouse Penwiper.
The circle is complete.


...don't you love when that happens!


Cat Haven Crafts said...

Thank you for this great post. I learned something today. Will anxiously await your post tomorrow!

Kathy Barrick said...

As will I! Truly a wonderful post!

Sadge said...

So cool! I've never seen these, but can definitely see the need. My desk is an antique oak rolltop, the right-hand side of the top stained with century-old black and red ink spatters. Before getting my first Rapidograph pen, I'd use nibs and an inkwell for my pen & ink drawings, and always kept a wiping rag close at hand.

Amy said...

That was fascinating. I just love learning about those small everyday objects used so long ago. So interesting thanks for all your research. I think a penwiper will be a laovely gift for my Mom who collects inkwells.